[MUD-Dev] Removing the Massively from MMOG (long)

Lachek Butalek lachek at gmail.com
Sat Nov 19 11:20:13 New Zealand Daylight Time 2005

On 11/17/05, cruise <cruise at casual-tempest.net> wrote:

> This is an idea that has been brewing in my mind for a while now,
> trudgeand many of the recent threads have convinced me enough to
> finally write it all down.

> http://www.casual-tempest.net/think.php?t=3D6&p=3D1

You've managed to distill many of the points I've tried to get
across over the last year or so in various discussions, and I
wholeheartedly agree with you. Until MMO developers figure out a way
to use the "Massively" in their favour rather than to their
detriment, they should focus on smaller games targeted to a more
narrowly focused audience (=smaller budgets, but more games) rather
than trying to impose a non-massive element to their MMO by
instancing. One of the selling points of WoW, for example, was that
it was balanced and polished enough that you could solo without any
major issues - indeed, some reviewers claimed it was "playable as a
single player game", and made it sound like a good thing. My
question was, why am I paying $14.95/month for a single player game,
which only differs majorly from Morrowind in that it features
annoying twits running around speaking in l33t?

My two favourite MMOs from a design perspective, Eve:Online and A
Tale in the Desert, both handle the "Massive" element quite well -
in Eve by creating a 95% player-driven economy and a strong,
functional PvP element, and in ATITD by encouraging trading of goods
and services by using a carefully designed tech tree. Both these
games are characterized by very open and flexible gameplay - the
game does not pretend to be *about* something, it just sets some
rules (physics) and throws the player into the world. The imposition
of physics causes the presence of a "game" element (as opposed to
Second Life), and the lack of an imposed vision causes the players
to become creative and set goals on their own. These games benefit
from the "Massive" element for social interaction - WoW, for
example, does not.

The other major difference between Eve/ATITD and WoW/EQ/L2/CoH is
that players are cast as quite common people, not heroes, soldiers,
mercenaries, mutants, etc. In Eve, there are miners, mercs, pirates,
CEOs, researchers, etc. In CoH, there are superheroes who fight evil
(and now, villains who fight good). In ATITD, there are weavers,
lumberjacks, builders, miners, explorers, jewelers, politicians,
etc. In WoW, there is the Alliance, who fight the Horde, and the
Horde, who fight the Alliance. Everyone is an adventurer/soldier -
sure, you may also be a blacksmith, but the only reason for that is
to improve your weapons so you can kill bigger foozles. The
homogenity in CoH/WoW causes "Massive" to work against realism, but
Eve/ATITD is constantly in need of more people to play more nuanced
roles.  If anyone has examples of other games where "Massive"
actually works in the game's favour, I'd love to hear of them -
right now, it seems the major companies are working the "Massive"
angle in order to get subscriptions, while providing as close to a
single-player (or at best, multiplayer a la Counterstrike)
experience as possible.
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